Buderus blues push Ennis and Farah into NSW frame
At long odds … former NSW hooker Danny Buderus left, seen here with Knights teammate Willie Mason at club training, is carrying an injury and may miss the Origin opener in Melbourne. Photo: Darren Pateman
NORMAL service is set to be resumed in the battle for the contentious NSW hooking job, with perennial contenders Michael Ennis and Robbie Farah to fight it out once again following dim injury news for veteran Danny Buderus.
A former Blues captain, Buderus, 34, had been guaranteed the NSW No. 9 jumper for the first State of Origin match in Melbourne on May 23.
However, Newcastle yesterday ruled him out for up to a month with achilles tendonitis, meaning he is surely at long odds to enter into calculations when NSW coach Ricky Stuart and selection adviser Bob Fulton sit down to choose a team in 10 days' time.
Contender ... Michael Ennis is in the running for the NSW hooking job. Photo: Getty Images
Another potential dummy half is Melbourne's Ryan Hinchcliffe but the utility is shaping as a possible replacement for Kurt Gidley from the Blues bench after the Knights captain dislocated his shoulder on Monday night for the second time this year.
Since Buderus's exit from the NRL at the end of 2008 - he spent three seasons in the English Super League with Leeds - Ennis and Farah have squared off for the position, with the Canterbury captain playing seven games to his rival's two. If he can successfully prove he has shaken off a lingering knee injury, starting against Parramatta at ANZ Stadium tomorrow night, Ennis could put his nose in front.
Stuart rang both of them last month to tell them Buderus, having since returned to Newcastle this year, was ahead of them in the race for selection for Etihad Stadium but now will watch both closely over the next two weekends after losing his top option.
The coach's decision is complicated by the fact that Ennis, 28, has been inhibited by a knee complaint this season, an injury that prompted him not to accept a call-up by Country last month when Buderus withdrew from that squad. Bulldogs coach Des Hasler, however, says his feisty skipper is ''just about right now'' in terms of fitness.
Then there is the public slanging matches about the merits of Farah, the Wests Tigers captain.
Balmain great and Blues assistant Steve Roach was reported as saying that Farah was not up to State of Origin standard, a stinging assessment that came after Tigers coach Tim Sheens said publicly that his No. 9 should be playing for NSW.
While Roach was scathing of Farah's credentials the indications have been that with Buderus a non-starter the 28-year-old Tiger is still in the mix for an Origin recall. Farah was the man of the match for City in last month's traditional Origin trial in Mudgee but has had a disrupted campaign so far due to a hand injury, a broken nose, concussion and suspension amid the Tigers' dismal start to 2012.
While Stuart said in his newspaper column at the weekend that he could use Farah's creativity he hinted that if Ennis, the incumbent Blues hooker, was fit and firing he would likely be preferred. In another boost for Ennis's hopes Stuart also disputed suggestions the Bulldogs rake was out of favour with him.
Hinchcliffe, meanwhile, received the endorsement of his coach at the Storm, Craig Bellamy, Stuart's predecessor at NSW. Bellamy believes the 27-year-old's versatility makes him a good fit for Gidley's spot on the bench in Melbourne.
''He'd be an ideal guy for that bench spot,'' Bellamy said. ''He can't play fullback or five-eighth or halfback like Kurt can but he can certainly play hooker and in the back row and, at a pinch, he could slip into the centres.
''I think he'd be a real good fit for them but … I don't want to start telling Rick and his selectors what to do because I think he's getting enough advice.''